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Sexual assault awareness month
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April is "Sexual Assault Awareness Month," in recognition of an age old crime that victimizes women, men, boys and girls. The idea of dedicating an entire month to this issue is to raise awareness and to educate in effort to prevent these crimes from taking place.

Sexual assault crimes can range from inappropriate touching to penetrative violations. And while physical injuries are a common consequence of sexual assault crimes, the psychological effects tend to haunt the victims for many years and can prove difficult to overcome. For victims who choose not to report offenses - and there are many reasons why they sometimes do not - they often never overcome the accompanying psychological trauma. These victims frequently cannot have normal relationships; they may experience unusually dramatic emotional upsets and may engage in self-destructive behavior as a result.

The victim demographic for sexual assaults features primarily adult women. But men and children are frequent victims as well. A disconcerting trend is that teen and pre-teen girls are suffering more attacks and unwanted touching than in previous years. Speculation has it that some elements of popular culture, rap music in particular, makes women out to be less than respected and suggests that they exist to serve at the pleasure of their male counterparts.

Statistics for college women indicate that one in 20 women fall victim to rape or attempted rape, meaning that tens of thousands of women are affected by this crime. Drugs and alcohol add to the problem, where the victims may be unconscious or at a level of altered consciousness such that they cannot resist or otherwise make it clear that the interaction is unwanted. We like to think of our society as being sophisticated, advanced, humanitarian in nature and highly civilized. The aforementioned suggests that we have a ways to go before we can give all of society high marks for its treatment of women.

Society as a whole has committed substantial resources to the problem of sexual assaults. These resources exist in the form of programs and institutions at all levels of government and in many private, non-profit organizations. The police are well-trained in these matters and are expected to treat the victims and the associated investigations with extreme care and attention. In Stanislaus County, the Haven Women's Center provides specialized counseling and referral services for victims, while the medical community is also geared up with the special knowledge and training required to help sexual assault victims. Victims have many resources at their disposal in the unfortunate event they are attacked. At the same time, prevention is highly important. Those who victimize need to address their psychological shortcomings and understand that any form of unwelcome touching, feeling or beyond is totally unacceptable and illegal. There are prevention techniques, including self defense training, surroundings' awareness, and exercising caution when choosing friends and acquaintances.

Sexual assault is not a mere nuisance. It is one of the more severe victim impact crimes that must be reduced in frequency and number. Devoting one month every year to "Sexual Assault Awareness" is a laudable and productive initiative, but it is not nearly enough. Everyone has to be mindful of this issue and do what is needed as individuals to reverse this destructive and inhumane crime trend. Perhaps every month should be "Sexual Assault Awareness Month."